Continued unrest in Hong Kong has resulted in hundreds of injuries, many more arrests, and increasing international attention.

Here’s how it began and why it escalated.


‘One country, two systems’

A key principle called the “one country, two systems” framework set out Hong Kong’s economic and administrative independence from China after “the handover” in 1997, when it was no longer a British colony. Since the handover, residents have criticized what they see as mainland China’s attempts to erode Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Extradition bill

While the plans have since been put on hold, protests began after the proposal of a bill in April that would allow residents to be extradited from Hong Kong to China. Protesters feared the bill would allow the Communist Party of China to target political foes, thereby eroding the framework of “one country, two systems.” In June, Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended the bill, but demonstrators want it completely withdrawn.

Teargas and rubber bullets

Police crackdowns on protesters have grown increasingly violent since the first demonstrations against the extradition bill. Police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets, arrested hundreds and allegedly blinded a woman in one eye. The clashes have escalated the protests, which have moved from the specifics of the extradition bill to a broader call for democracy. Some demonstrators feel as though “peaceful protests are no use.” On Tuesday, some protesters attacked two men suspected of being spies from the mainland.

Why the airport?

In July, protests moved to the Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world’s busiest transport hubs, where airline industry workers organized a sit-in protest. Demonstrations have continued at the airport in August, with the purpose of bringing international attention to pro-democracy efforts.